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8,000 Firestone Workers at 9 Plants Could Walk Out on Saturday

Aired August 31, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, Venezuela recommends criminal charges today against Firestone and Ford. The government's consumer agency blames the companies for at least 10 traffic deaths linked to faulty Firestone tires.

And here in the United States, as Firestone scrambles to turn out replacement tires and mount a public relations defense, its workers are threatening a Labor Day weekend walkout.

CNN's Mark Potter joins us now from Firestone headquarters in Nashville with more about that -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Lou.

We're outside corporate headquarters here in Nashville. And about 10 minutes ago, there was a rather noisy crowd here of several hundred United Steelworkers. They were here holding a labor rally.

What is at issue is the prospect of a strike, as you said. Several hundred workers from the union were here pointing out that they have been negotiating with the union since this spring, hoping to get a new contract.

Both sides, however, have failed to agree. The union now claims that if there is no settlement by midnight Friday, this Friday, it will likely go out on strike at nine plants in seven states.

And, of course, the question raised by all of this is what impact will this have on the 6.5 million tire recall that's under way now.

We would like to talk with a man who is intimately involved with this problem: Ken Sydenstricker is a worker at a nearby plant.

Very briefly, Ken, what do you do at the plant?

KEN SYDENSTRICKER, STEEL WORKERS UNION MEMBER: I work in the mixing department at Warren County.

POTTER: What do you think about the prospect of this strike?

SYDENSTRICKER: Well, I think it's a shame because if this company did negotiate -- they don't have -- they could have avoided all of this, if they would just negotiate fairly with us. They are not addressing any of our terms, any issues that we had, at least at the Warren County plant, and from what I understand in St. Louis, they're not even attempting.

POTTER: What do you think about the prospect of going out on a strike at such a critical time, not only for the company and for the workers, but for many people in this country because of this tire recall. Are you comfortable with that?

SYDENSTRICKER: Let me say one thing: Nobody at Bridgestone wants to go out on strike. We have families. We do not want to strike, OK.

It saddens me and a lot of that they're forcing us into this. They wouldn't -- they, especially because it's recall, we don't want to keep the people in the country, you know, from having tires and everything and getting these recalled tires off the road.

But the main thing is, if they would just negotiate fairly, we would not go out on strike.

POTTER: We thank you for your time. Appreciate you talking to us. Thank you.

The company issued a statement saying today that it hopes to settle this issue through negotiations, and it added, and I quote, "a strike will benefit no one." The statement went on to say, "We are working hard to avoid any disruption in our plants."

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right, Mark Potter in Nashville.

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